The radio is off, I am listening to Billy Joel. I’m listening to Piano Man and it’s booming, and yes I am singing at the top of my voice.
I had to turn the radio, TV and the news websites off as I have been disheartened by commentary over the Olympics. Sorry to my friends in the media, this is a broad statement and not targeted at anyone specific.
When I was young I can vaguely recall the closing ceremony of the Moscow Olympics, the crying bear as it said farewell. Unfortunately that is how I am feeling toward the coverage and commentary over the last few days.
Where do I start, my head is full of such disappointment, anger with what is being said.
We as parents are told to teach our children to be good sports and be resilient to deal with disappointment however the media at the moment seem to be acting like a petulant child as the swimming team hasn’t achieved what THEY the media was expecting. They have even resorted to using the word “Failure” as we have only achieved 1 Gold Medal as yet (in the LA Olympics that was the same number of swimming golds we achieved (Jon Sieben 100m fly).
There used to be a joke said by the NZ team in the LA Olympics that went, What does Australia and Carl Lewis havein common? 4 Gold medals. Yes we only achieved 4 gold medals in total at LA with only one in the pool.
To give you a little back ground, for about 7 years I was a swimmer, swimming for Nunawading Swimming club in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne where I rubbed shoulders with some of the best swimmers in Australia (Not name dripping, that’s not the point). At the time, our head coach was Leigh Nugent (affectionately known as Nugget), then the National breastroke coach and now Australias’ Head coach.
Ok I was never at that level, I did strive for the Olympics, but eventually I was happy with my achievements as a Butterfly/Backstroker. I was fortunate to train with some swimmers who were to achieve the heights that I could only dream of. I remember those 4:30 wakeups 5 times a week plus 2 gym sessions, it’s a hard slog and I never made the progression to our national team, but sport was more about being healthy, having a club which was more like a family away from home.
As someone who looked at possibly representing Australia, I saw the Olympics as this mystical event where only the BEST in the word competed, it was at the time an amateur event, where athletes performed their best, that’s all you can really ask of them. Medals were a bonus not to mention Gold, to represent your country was the pinnacle of the sport.
Our golden age of swimming in the 90’sand ‘00’s where the likes of Thorp, Hackett, Perkins, Klim, etc. seems to have lifted the expectations in the Media, where so many good swimmers came through at the same time, we “owned” the 1500m freestyle not to mention may events.
Every event has to be recontested, it’s not like a battlefield where the winner from the previous games hold the high ground, the term “defending” always seems a little amiss, as it doesn’t respect that there are 4 years between, it’s a young person’s sport. Obscure people last Olympics can win, as they have set their goals higher for this Olympics, they could have flown under the radar, especially when they come from countries that don’t regularly compete outside their region.
To say our guys are losing implies that the opposition aren’t trying to win, they are the default winners because our guys aren’t trying hard enough which I feel is disingenuous.
All we can ask is our swimmers do their best on the day, swimmers don’t just turn up to swim, much planning is involved in the lead up to any swimming championship, they need to be tapered properly not to mention their health and their mental state. The Olympics is a totally different scene to any other event, there’s so much expectation placed on the athletes shoulders. The swimmers are likely to have swum in many events representing their club and then other international events where the media shoes scant interest, perhaps at the commonwealth games where the atmosphere is more close to the Olympics, but there is only one event that Counts.
Has this event become too commercial? It would appear not to be about athletes’ personal best times, it’s like the medal tally is being treated like a Profit and Loss Statement for the Olympic team. There seems to be a great sense of entitlement , I don’t know where that came from.
All I ask is to see it from the athletes perspective, sure it may be disappointing, but for THEM, not YOU. It is THEIR event after all, not YOURS.
Remember how Shane Gould gave up at such a young age, sure it was a different circumstance but if you want sportsmen and women to get to such a high level, devoting every day to their swimming goals, please encourage them otherwise we may lose them before their prime and it’ll all go back to Montreal where we won no gold at all.
When dealing with Football teams it is understood that teams need to rebuild after marquis players leave, Similarly our swimming team is rebuilding, and if you look at the results, we are still close, they are achieving medals just not the colour the media are wanting.
Is this the age of opinion over facts?
Perhaps we need a challenge, those who criticise the team should have a swim off, let’s see how well those commentators do.